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Croda da Lago Circuit

Dolomites,  Italy

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Maximum Altitude: 2,462m
Level of Difficulty: Strenuous

Key information: Croda da Lago Circuit

  • This is a tiring but almost perfect day walk around the spiny crest of the Croda da Lago massif.
  • Climb through beautiful open forest to a meltingly pretty lake, then cross high passes with magnificent views, descending back to the treeline down a wild, broken valley, beneath the stupendous cliffs of the Croda da Lago throughout.

Walk summary

The long, spectacular spine of the Croda da Lago in the central Dolomites can be circuited in this approaching-perfect day walk.


The first hour or so is in beautiful open mixed forest below Passo Giau, reaching a giddy clifftop with magnificent views across the Cortina valley and up to the La Tofana and Nuvolau features.


The trail then winds below the cliffs, through a beautiful rough meadow, then above the ravishing Lago Federa with its tree-capped boulder islands, which when we were there in mid June still reflected, in its placid waters, big snow piles in the gulleys at the cliff bases.


From the superbly sited Rifugio Palmeri (views across high pasture to the spire of Beco de Mezodi and back over the lakes, and perhaps the best hot chocolate ever?), the trail winds steadily and delightfully to the high Forcella Ambrizzola pass.


It now turns north, tracking the Crodas western flank to the high point at Forcella Rossa di Firmin, with its wonderous views over to the Pelmo, arguably the Dolomites most splendid massif, then descending a wild, wild, rocky valley back to the treeline.


This walk is well described in Cicerones Shorter Walks in the Dolomites. A longer version of this walk could be made from Passo Giau, or it could be linked with walking on to the Citta di Fiume refuge under the Pelmo.

William Mackesy

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

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Practical information for Walking in Dolomites, Italy, Croda da Lago Circuit

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps



Shorter walks in the Dolomites - Cicerone – Gillian Price (Day walks)

Other books

Italy – Lonely Planet

Italy Insight Guide – Insight Guides

The Rough Guide to Italy – Rob Andrews, Ros Belford, Jules Brown, and Jonathon Buckley.



Good quality maps are usually available locally.


Best times to walk/weather


Best times to walk

June to October. Check precise opening/closing dates of the refuge, if you wish to stay there.


Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights when high up. It can snow even in high summer. Beware of afternoon thunderstorms in high summer. Keep away from peaks, ridges and "ferrata" equipment if they get near.


For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides


Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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The nearest major airports are at Venice, Verona and Innsbruck. Train and bus access is available (see guidebooks), although most people will approach by car. If on long trails, you can get taxis back to your car from various roadheads.


Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

Car hire is easy, and the roads good and well signed.


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See Walk Summary above, and the guidebooks for a multitude of ideas and detailed route information.


Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Altitude: Likely to affect you a bit: expect to puff and perhaps develop a mild headache. Take the first day gently.
  • Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Beware afternoon thunderstorms. Come prepared.
  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights. (This applies especially to the via ferrata sections of AV1 (see warning in Walk Summary above) and other vie ferrata in the Dolomites.)
  • Harmful animals: including snakes, and ticks in some areas. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is remote country: Carry sufficient food and other supplies. Help may be hard to get if things go wrong.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.


Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.


Make sure you have appropriate insurance.


Guided or independent?

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You can do this walk independently, which most people do, but come fully prepared.



Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has its advantages. Dolomites expedition organisers can be found in our Dolomites page.



Endless and excellent options.


Rifugio Palmieri.


An excellent option as for day walkers is to stay in the profusion of comfortable hotels/inns. We ate like kings at the very comfortable Refugio Passo Giau (+390457720130 – www.passogiau.it ) with it’s marvellous views.


See the main Dolomites page for other ideas.


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Other information and tips


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Useful websites and information


There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Endless – see main Dolomites page.

Other activities

Via Ferratas

William Mackesy

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

See our Fun page for some entertainment and to read about our travel writing and other competitions.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

William Mackesy

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more